25 Favorite Albums of 2009 (Chris)

The placement of the top 5 is absolute.  Everything else shifts around a bit. There were others, but these were the ones that left the biggest hole in my brain.  My apologies to Animal Collective.  I still love you (that new EP is great!), but I guess “MPP” didn’t stick with me like it did every other person in the world.  No EPs or singles (which leaves out a bunch of awesome dance and dubstep records, unfortunately).  I’m bummed that I STILL haven’t heard the new Fuck Buttons or Califone.  This was honed from a list of about 60, so if it’s on here, it’s worth your time (maybe).  Like Nas said, you can hate me now.

25. A Place to Bury Strangers – Exploding Head

24. Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

23. Pan American – White Bird Release

22. The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage

21. Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care

20. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

18. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Part II

17. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

16. The Juan Maclean – The Future Will Come

15. Khanate – Clean Hands Go Foul

14. Girls – Album

13. Atlas Sound – Logos

12. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm

11. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

10. Kylesa – Static Tensions

9. Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another

8. Wolves in the Throne Room – Black Cascade

7. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns

6. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

5. William Basinski – 92982

4. Tim Hecker – An Imaginary Country

3. Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem

2. Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions

1. Clark – Totems Flare

Climate Control: The Next Massive Attack LP

I should probably disclose my relationship with Massive Attack. I discovered them as a companion to the mass amounts of Portishead I was listening to my freshman year of college. And a year later, they were the sole soundtrack to my life while I was engaging in “less than desirable” behavior. Once I shed my extreme debauchery skin, I found that Massive Attack may just be too dangerous to listen to. So, I shelved them for about 3 years, fearing relapse. Since then, I’ve found that I can dip my toes back into the troubled waters that are Massive Attack.

All that time, I was awaiting another album from the Britons ( at one time reduced to a single Briton). In 2006, I was teased with the single “False Flags,” thinking an album announcement was just around the corner. Instead, I got utter silence, and the trip-hop voices in my head began to demand satisfaction. Fast forward to 2009, and I’m teased yet again with the release of another proper LP. While the group now says “spring 2010,” they did deliver upon us the Splitting the Atom EP, which has raised more questions than answered.

The EP only puts forth two new songs, alongside two remixes. It’s safe to say, that Massive Attack are still able to produce that “sexy, slow crawl” trip-hop sound. “Pray For Rain” is a curious number featuring the vocals of TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. The song is built around a strong, off-time drum beat, and features and excellent breakdown in the middle. It’s a definite slow burn, building up tension over it’s 6 minutes, before fading out at the end. It’s nothing really revolutionary for the genre. Actually, it sounds like it came off the stellar 1995 album Maxinquaye, by former Massive Attack collaborator, Tricky. Which, may not be new, is still a sound I’d love to welcome back into my life.

The title track, “Splitting The Atom,” is probably a better preview of what Massive Attack’s fifth LP will sound like. It’s shows us a Massive Attack that still builds a good atmosphere, but fails to really offer up any stand out moments. It’s a song that seems like it’s building up to a great pay off, only to simply end.

I’m still not willing to say that I’m disappointed with Splitting The Atom. However, it doesn’t exactly put my mind at ease. With the return of original member Mushroom, I still have hopes that a memorable Massive Attack LP is on the way. I’m just worried that they’re only shooting for middle rung material these days. But if 2010 passes us by, sans Massive Attack release, I’m probably just going to have to quiet those trip-hop ghosts and accept that Massive Attack just couldn’t survive in the new millennia.

-Chase

Nine Inch Nails “Mr. Self Destruct” (Live @ Webster Hall, NYC)

*Jaw drops*

Chris Piercy

James Chance and The Contortions “I Can’t Stand Myself” (1978)

New York’s No Wave scene of the late ’70s is often portrayed as a lot of atonal and un-funky noise buggery, typified by such bands as Mars, DNA, and Teenage Jesus & The Jerks (all admittedly terrific atonal and un-funky noise buggers).  Yet, there was one lily white James Brown wannabe who danced through the puddles of piss and waves of feedback to bring the unsmiling art types a bit of groove: James Chance (a.k.a. James White).  Certainly, this was still not quite as accessible as the Talking Heads’ parallel forays into funk, but The Contortions’ music helped to bridge the aural divide between the two Eno-approved camps.  It should be noted that Chance was a bit more confrontational than David Byrne.  It’s hard to imagine Byrne physically challenging Robert Christgau during a concert. 

Of course, as much as I dig The Contortions, it would be pretty foolish to pretend that their version is better than James Browns’ original.  It’s not quite a fair fight.  So here is the mustachioed(!) sex machine performing a medley of his hits (including “I Can’t Stand Myself) on a 1974 episode of “Midnight Special”:

And, of course, here’s Eddie Murphy:

Chris Piercy

Shit Vids: Michael Bolton “Said I Loved You But I Lied”

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It seems that if enough time passes, just about any music can become ironically appreciated: Journey, Phil Collins, Christopher Cross, Mozart.  Yet, for some reason, Michael Bolton remains in the pop culture dog house.  For what?  His permamullet?  For soundtracking your wife’s third affair?  I call bullshit.  Sooner or later the hipsters will put down that ironic can of PBR and realize that The Bolt was The Man.  Did anyone ever call him “The Bolt”?  They should.  And the San Diego Chargers better make him their official mascot, pronto.  Maybe the power of that tenor will make up for L.T.’s lackluster play as of late.

When I ask myself what I expect from a decent music video, the first thing that pops into my mind is a group of horses running through superimposed fire.  You can’t go wrong with that and that is something that we get within the first 15 seconds of this video.  What could make this opening scene even better?  Cut to The Bolt holding the secrets of sex in his hands.  Then we get brief glimpses of some hot ass touching herself…IN BLACK AND WHITE!  After about a minute and a half, you may ask yourself: “Why is this video vaguely Native American?”  Probably because Native American culture is SEXXXY!  We also discover that The Bolt is waaaayyyy too sexy (Native American?) to be afraid of heights.

This video is a masterpiece of the editing room: Eagle! Fire! Sex! Chest hair! Mullet! Rocks! Horses! Perfect teeth! More mullet! Aerial shot of mullet!  Really the only part of this video that seems ridiculous is that someone would be standing on top of a mountain, in the desert, without any sunglasses.  That’s just eye damage waiting to happen.

Did I mention that this video was uploaded to YouTube by someone named “69solitarias”?  Obviously, they totally get Michael Bolton.

Chris Piercy

New Music: Burial & Flying Lotus “Untitled”

Burial is hiding under the cap

Burial is hiding under the cap

Many moons ago a track popped up on the Flying Lotus MySpace page.  Then it vanished.  Well it’s time to get re-excited because it has popped up on a mysterious website called “YouTube”…and it is a confirmed collaboration between Burial and Flying Lotus.

It’s an understated track but it’s still a pretty interesting beating of the minds.  Hopefully this is a sign of more to come.  The music video is kind of lame tho (guffaw).

The untitled track uses elements of Dimlite’s “Ravemond’s Young Problems” (which has a pretty badazz video featuring some hawt female bench-pressin’, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and a Smurf):

There’s also a snippet of V.I.C.’s “Get Silly”.  Forget a rubber band cuz you can’t put a rubber band around a milli-an:

Chris Piercy

Say It Elsewhere

A quick recap of the INTERNET WORLD:

ESPN’s DJ Gallo discusses the throwback trend of football fashion faux pas here.

For those of you who didn’t watch last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, Colbert Nation has the video of Stephen’s interview of The RZA here.

Friend of the blog and excellent photographer, Zach Gray, has a couple cool performance videos of The Non posted over at what’s going “on.” Click here.

Back in March, Seydisfjordur, Iceland was infested with Sony speakers.  Gizmodo has the video.  You should probably check it out now.

LCD Soundsystem has covered “Bye Bye Bayou”, a solo track by Alan Vega of Suicide.  22 Tracks has it streaming here.

Weekly Tape Deck has the new far out video for “Seed” by Julian Lynch here

NME has the new Girls video for “Laura” here.  If you don’t already own this record, GET TA GETTIN’!

Gorilla vs. Bear has a live video of The xx performing “Basic Space” here.

MP3:

The xx – “Basic Space

Chris Piercy

Are the Heene Boyz the New Beasties?

The Balloon Boy in a Few Years

The Balloon Boy in a Few Years

Today the world stopped what it was doing to watch a balloon fly across the Colorado sky.  Usually this would mean that the world was really, really stoned.  Turns out, this wasn’t entirely the case.

Now that Falcon Heene is a bonafide celebrity (and due to the Beastie Boys’ current hiatas), perhaps his brotherly rap group can finally get the respect it deserves.  I really don’t know how the following video still has less than 3,000 views.  IT SAMPLES COLD!!!  These kids are going to be huge.

*UPDATE: Apparently the view count has gone from less than 3,000 to OVER 124,000 in just a couple of hours.  Ladies and gentlemen: meet the new viral sensation!

Chris Piercy

Is Hannah Montana Better Than Indie Rock?

On October 5th, Vampire Weekend (or Vamp Wknd as they will forthwith be known) leaked the first song off their upcoming album, Contra, to the internets.  An album which is apparently being released on Ralph Lauren’s upstart label Yachts What She Thread.

vampireweekend-contra

In July, which totally seems like three years ago in Internet Time, Miley Billy Ray Ray Hannah Montana Cyrus released her hit single “Party in the U.S.A.”; a song to soundtrack her fashion-forward Wal-Mart clothing line.

people-of-wal-mart-3

In “Horchata” and “Party” we have two equally divisive pop songs: one approved for rice milk drinking indie preps and one specially formulated for Dr. Thunder chugging “regular kids”.  Both are completely horrendous and that’s the end of the story. You can go back to playing your Nintendo now.

Well, not exactly.  I recently loaded both songs onto my Sony Walkman and spent an afternoon playing them ad infintium.  Both ditties have ridiculously catchy choruses that all the q-tips  in the world couldn’t scrape from my brain.  They also each have intermittently annoying verses that make me want to search out the nearest guillotine.

Here are the opening lines to Vamp Wknd’s song:

“In December drinking horchata/I’d look psychotic in a balaclava”

Here are the opening lines to Miley’s tune:

“I hopped off the plane at LAX/with a dream and a cardigan”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take white girls singing about cardigans over white dudes singing about balaclavas any day.  I like cardigans.  It’s a sensible outfit for sensible kids hopping off planes.  And I’ve TOTALLY hopped off of planes at LAX!  I can relate to that!  Drinking horchata while wearing a balaclava might be psychotic, but I’m more concerned about how annoying it sounds to sing about doing so.

Our Literacy Trumps Your Record Sales

Our Literacy Trumps Your Record Sales

Some have claimed that Vamp Wknd are merely a pleasant musical representation of how small our world has become.  These dudes listen to NPR.  They probably own some bitchin’ high life vinyls.  I’m sure they voted for that guy from Kenya.  I’m down with all of that, and I don’t begrudge their Ivy League education.  If I had also gone to Columbia I probably wouldn’t be writing a blog about Hannah Montana right now.  I found their debut album to be pretty nice, but did I suddenly start listening to Vamp Wknd more than Graceland or Hall & Oates?  No.  Maybe if they had mustaches.

My Dad Can Beat Up Paul Simon

My Dad Can Beat Up Paul Simon

I have never watched more than 38 seconds of an episode of “Hannah Montana”, but I’m certainly aware of its existence and cultural importance.   Miley Cyrus is a huge pop culture figure and a young woman whose music I had somehow managed to avoid…even in my occasional trips to Wal-Mart.  But when someone writes a song this catchy, that makes a meta reference to working your hips to Jay-Z, eventually it is going to reach my ears.  Like yeaaahhhh.  And I have to admit that, between these two songs, “Party in the U.S.A.” somehow seemed less annoying than “Horchata” after double-digit listens.  Maybe it’s because I’m lactose intolerant and don’t really care for rice.

You can download “Horchata” here.

I don’t love or hate either of these tunes.  They both exist in the part of my brain that I call “The Muppet Zone”: a place that is repelled and attracted by cute/annoying pop culture.  Sometimes these songs are Kermit and sometimes they are Miss Piggy, but the entire time my mind is being critiqued by Waldorf and Statler.

I come away from my time spent digesting these songs asking myself if catchy indie pop is really any more valid than catchy mass-marketed tween pop.  I guess the only thing that remains certain in the world is that Billy Ray Cyrus WILL sleep with your wife.  That’s a world I can handle.

aph_37

Chris Piercy

Daniel Johnston “Held the Hand” (1990)

This video is for anyone who is ever sad on cloudy days.

Chris Piercy